Contrast-enhanced ultrasound approach to the diagnosis of focal liver lesions: the importance of washout

Authors: Hyun Kyung Yang, Peter N. Burns, Hyun-Jung Jang1, Yuko Kono, Korosh Khalili1, Stephanie R. Wilson, Tae Kyoung Kim

Contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) is a powerful technique for differentiating focal liver lesions (FLLs) without the risks of potential nephrotoxicity or ionizing radiation. In the diagnostic algorithm for FLLs on CEUS, washout is an important feature, as its presence is highly suggestive of malignancy and its characteristics are useful in distinguishing hepatocellular from non-hepatocellular malignancies. Interpreting washout on CEUS requires an understanding that microbubble contrast agents are strictly intravascular, unlike computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging contrast agents. This review explains the definition and types of washout on CEUS in accordance with the 2017 version of the CEUS Liver Imaging Reporting and Data System and presents their applications to differential diagnosis with illustrative examples. Additionally, we propose potential mechanisms of rapid washout and describe the washout phenomenon in benign entities.